British Columbia

Shooting victims had gang connections

Conflicts between two or more gangs are likely the cause of increasing gun violence in Metro Vancouver, where two men died Tuesday in the latest gangland-style shooting, police said.

2 men killed as Mercedes sprayed with bullets

Conflicts between two or more gangs are likely the cause of increasing gun violence in Metro Vancouver, where two men died Tuesday in the latest gangland-style shooting, police said.

With the two bodies inside, the Mercedes was covered by a tarp early Tuesday, before a flatbed truck took it away after the morning rush hour. ((CBC))

Ronal Shakeel Raj, 31, of Surrey and Ali Abhari, 25, of Kelowna were identified by police as the men found dead in the front seats of a Mercedes at the intersection of Granville Street and 70th Avenue at around 2:15 a.m.

"A large newer SUV, we don't know the colour, and a mid-sized SUV trapped the victims' vehicle … a passenger came out of one of the SUVs and opened fire through the passenger window of the Mercedes, killing both victims," said Doug LePard, deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department.

Police allege Raj, who was the driver of the Mercedes, and Abhari were both associated with gang activity.

Ronal Shakeel Raj, 31, of Surrey, was one of the men shot dead in a Mercedes early Tuesday in what police are calling a targeted hit.

"There clearly is a conflict between two or more gangs right now," LePard said. "And it would seem that the way they settle disputes, even minor disputes, is through violence and gun play."

The Mercedes was heading south on Granville Street and was waiting at the light at 70th Avenue to turn left, police said.

A police officer was in a cruiser two blocks away and heard the shooting, and was quickly on the scene, but the two vehicles sped off before the officer arrived.

Investigators shut down several blocks of Granville Street from 68th Avenue to 72nd Avenue for more than five hours, scouring the scene for any piece of evidence.

The morning rush hour traffic was let through close to 8 a.m., after a flatbed truck took the Mercedes away with the bodies still in the vehicle.

Vancouver has seen a rash of gang-style shootings this fall. The latest killings are the city's 19th and 20th homicides of 2007, and the third and fourth shooting deaths in less than a week.

Vancouver deputy police chief Doug LePard said there is clearly a conflict between two or more gangs, and the conflicts are being settled with violence and gunplay. ((CBC))

When asked by reporters about possiblesolutions to the growing gang problem in Vancouver, deputy police chief Bob Rich saidstopping the illegal smuggling of guns into the country is key.

"There is a proliferation of American handguns that are coming into this country," Rich said. "We need to find a way to reduce the flow of handguns into Canada."

Policeannounced on Tuesdaya new VPD task force will be formed that will focus on strategies to reduce gang violence and the threat that it poses to public safety.

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